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a post by

Kara Glasco, MS, RCEP, HFS

We’ve all had difficult personal training clients; it’s just a part of the business. We wish that every client would be on time, never cancel at the last minute, didn't use us as their therapist, isn’t excessively needy, and works hard 100% of the time. That my friends would be the Holy Grail and alas that client still remains an urban legend. When working with difficult clients I sometimes struggle with the balance between earning a living and professional responsibility. It’s easy to have clients pay late fees, chit chat through an entire session and push them only as hard as THEY want.

Sure, it’s easy to pocket the money for a cake walk session, but aren’t our clients coming to us to make physical progress? Don’t we owe it to them and our reputations to help them achieve their fitness and weight loss goals? It has been a few years since I was in the commercial fitness business, but corporate fitness does have its own special challenges. Every client, trainer, and situation is unique. Below I share my own personal experiences with three different types of clients that we have all experienced at one time or another.

Always Late or No Shows Clients

Does this sound familiar? It’s 5:30 AM, your client is 30 minutes late, you haven’t gotten a call or text, and now your whole schedule is thrown out of whack. It sure is frustrating and the excuse never seems to justify the complete waste of your time. I get it that people have sick kids, car troubles, and all sorts of other life events. JUST CALL ME AHEAD OF TIME! Lateness is also aggravating when you have to travel to meet a client or when sessions are scheduled at odd hours of the day.

My first suggestion is to make an initial consult session where you outline client goals, get basic physical measurements and develop a game plan with your client. During this initial consult session you should fully explain the late policy, cancellation policy and talk about how you would like to be paid.

My policy is that I forgave the first no call/no show session, and I charge a late fee for the second one. If the client no call/no shows a third time, I charge for the full session cost. Most often that cures clients of their tardy habits.

Another personal policy I adopted out of sheer necessity was to confirm every single training appointment the night before. A quick reminder email, text message, or phone call seemed to work wonders for getting clients to actually show up. This can be extremely tedious when you are juggling many different clients. You will thank yourself when the client says “I forgot to tell you I need to cancel,” and you don’t have to set your alarm for that ungodly hour. Develop policies that work best for you, set it in stone and stick to your guns. My policies may sound a little harsh, but after years of training I know what I’m willing and not willing to put up with. If you don’t lay down the law in the beginning this type of client will take advantage of you every time.

Another great tactic when working with the chronically late or frequent cancelers is to try and make your sessions part of their weekly routine. Building your training sessions permanently into their schedules helps with adherence. I like to find days and times that each client can train consistently every week. Keeping clients on a permanent training schedule usually mean they are willing to accommodate other things around your training sessions. Clients that frequently train at all hours and on different days will not only be a headache for you but may indicate a lack of dedication. Having a set schedule with your clients also allows you to monitor their weekly progress and vary their training routines. Haphazard training schedules makes it almost impossible to progress clients. After all, clients are coming to us to achieve goals as well as stick to a routine.

I always made it a point to have my clients pay me in packages ranging from 3 to 10 sessions. This way if they are late or no show your wallet isn’t getting burned. Using training packages usually leads to more client adherence, longer term clients, and more client progress. It’s not rocket science, more sessions equal more achieved goals, which equals more financial success for you. I’ve tried allowing clients to pay the day of, but that inevitably led to me hassling clients to pay up. When it comes to chronically late clients, use your discretion about allowing sessions to carry over. If I have someone who just can’t get there on time, I will reiterate the late policy and allow a few carry over minutes. I also might schedule a client right after the tardy trainee so I won’t be reinforcing the late behavior. I don’t normally charge for being late, but I sure don’t make up missed time either. You get paid for the allotted session, and it is your client’s choice to waste their own money. Time is money, you need to make a living, and don’t be afraid to think about your bottom line when charging clients.

I hope these tips and strategies for managing late, frequent no show clients and those who “forget” to pay you, help you with your business. One of the hardest parts of training is knowing when to lay down the law and when to be lenient. Lackadaisical and inconsistent clients most likely are unmotivated and not the type of client you want to be working with. Do not be afraid to let those types of clients go.

Stay tuned for more articles on challenging clients and my tips for motivating them.

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